Social media is a powerful tool. We’ve all heard stories of potential employers searching a candidate on the Internet only to find incriminating photos that ruined their chances of being hired. For that reason, many people opt to make their profiles private, which leaves anyone who searches wondering what is happening behind the wall. But what if you used the power of social media to your advantage? Instead of hiding behind privacy settings, you made everything fully public, putting your best foot forward and using the Web to promote your best attributes?

Imagine that a recent college graduate is pursuing a career in event planning. A potential employer does a Google search for her name and finds a Facebook post showing her as a volunteer serving food at a local soup kitchen and her Pinterest board that shows images of party planning themes. She may list her volunteer experience on her resume and say that she has party planning skills, but social media actually illustrates those attributes and gives her potential employer a positive image that can only help in her being hired. The same could be true for a business major who posts links to articles from the Wall Street Journal, or a newly licensed teacher who posts Instagram photos of class projects she’s created to help students learn math.

Here are some practical ways that you and your students can harness the power of social media to improve your image:

  • Networking: When looking for a job, who you know is almost as important as your skill set. Consider social media your first chance to make a first impression. If someone knows you from Facebook as the friend of a friend who just adopted a cute puppy, it will be easier to ask them for help in your job search when the time comes.
  • Content: Position yourself as a smart, educated and well-read individual by sharing links to news articles, blogs or informative videos. Doing that just a couple of times a week can make people think of you as a subject matter expert.
  • Personality: When it comes to the final hiring decision, managers want to know that the potential candidate will be a good “fit” for their organization. A friendly and positive image in social media can help them to feel that you would be the kind of person they would like to work with.
  • Share your passions: If you are a baseball fan, loved the latest Hunger Games movie, or play jazz music, chances are other people share those passions too. At the very least, it will make you seem well rounded. If you are athletic, group sports can help to show you as a team player or running a marathon can demonstrate your ability to achieve goals.
  • Affiliations with professional organizations: Simply “liking” or “re-tweeting” an organization shows that you follow what is going on in your industry—for instance, a potential librarian who “likes” the American Library Association on her Facebook page.

The fact remains that you still need to be cautious about what you post on social media and refrain from posting photos from late-night parties or sounding off about how much you hated your last boss. However, if you focus on the positive, it opens a world of possibilities. Don’t be afraid of what people might see about you on social media, embrace the chance to impress them. Use it to showcase the skills you have, the accomplishments you’ve made and the wonderful person that you are, and it will be a very powerful tool that helps you reach your goals.

 

How do you use social media to create a meaningful online presence? Share your ideas below.